Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tweeting from NASA's Discovery at 15 Conference

I'm at the Discovery@15 Conference in Huntsville, AL. From the NASA Discovery website:

In space exploration, the possibilities for discovery are without limits. Even with the vast amount of knowledge gained since exploration of our solar system began, there are still more questions than answers.

NASA's Discovery Program gives scientists the opportunity to dig deep into their imaginations and find innovative ways to unlock the mysteries of the solar system. It represents a breakthrough in the way NASA explores space, with lower-cost, highly focused planetary science investigations designed to enhance our understanding of the solar system.

All completed Discovery missions have achieved ground-breaking science within strict cost and schedule limitations, each taking a unique approach to space exploration.

Reaching into the unknown, doing what's never been done before, and driving new technology innovations that may also improve life on Earth - this is NASA's Discovery Program.

I'll be adding my twitter comments throughout the meeting

is now in work mode tweeting from the Discover @ 15 meeting

just announced that all presentations will be video taped and podcast on the website eventually!

First up Bob Farquhar who worked on 3 Discovery missions including NEAR, Contour and MESSENGER

or more info about the Discovery missions check out ... I'm the education and out reach lead for MESSENGER

more on Bob Farquhar

Now Discovery Sample return missions: 1st up flew through the tail of a comet

read about aerogel: 99.8% air used to collect comet tail dust

If you want to find comet dust in aerogel check out Stardust at home

30,000 volunteers are already participating in Stardust @ home perk-you get to name the grains you find

Next up the Genesis mission that returned samples of the solar wind

The speaker for Genesis is Don Burnett

Genesis sampled high speed, low speed and Coronal Mass Ejections see mission gallery

Don is discussing some of the challenges related to the Genesis hard landing

amazing results are coming from research on the Genesis solar wind samples
Next up-- Technology Innovation thru the Discovery Missions--enabling technologies in a cost-capped program

Bill Borucki is talking about Kepler the mission to search for habitable planets outside of the Solar System

Kepler uses 42 CCDs covered in sapphire

"How can you quantify science? Its of infinite value" Bill Bourcki when asked quantify science value when Kepler was faced w/ budget cuts

Next up MESSENGER "How can you not like the planet Mercury?" MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon

The challenges to a Mercury orbiter....Mercury is very close to the sun...only spacecraft to visit Mercury is Mariner 10 in 1974- a flyby


Technology infusion for MESSENGER-46% of the mass of the spacecraft is fuel..needed to integrate structure and propulsion system.

....including specially designed tank on of 17 thrusters-given 1 Earth, 2 Venus and 3 Mercury flybys before orbit insertion

The sun is 11 times brighter at Mercury than earth...lead to ceramic cloth sunshade..behind the sunshade MESSENGER is room temperature

don't forget first Mercury flyby is Jan 14 2008 the first spacecraft results from Mercury in more than 32 years

The Dawn Mission technology infusion is Ion Propulsion-learn more at

Dawn is scheduled to launch Sept will visit two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta
now Discovery "Missions of Opportunity

The Discovery program supports international cooperation through Missions of Opportunity with international space agencies

ASPERA-3 is a suite of instruments on the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft

Moon Mineralogy Mapper will fly on the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft-- India' s first mission to moon

This official launch date of Chandyayann-1 is April 2008

M-cubed is a spectrometer with 260 spectral channels and 70 m resolution. So we will have high resolution maps of the elements on the moon